On Jan. 19, a couple residing in Duncan, B.C. adopted a pet Vietnamese potbelly pig named Molly from the SPCA in nearby Cowichan. Less than a month later, Molly was dead, slaughtered and eaten by her new owners, according to an article in the Globe and Mail.
This news sparked widespread horror and outrage, but on the face of it, why was killing and eating a pig such a terrible thing? After all, pigs are slaughtered and their flesh eaten all the time. What makes Molly so special that this case invokes a feeling of gut revulsion in many of us? The reasons are more complex than they first appear, and context is key.
In fairness to the couple, they did not originally intend to kill and eat their adopted pig. The SPCA did a thorough evaluation of the adoptive couple. They made unambiguous assertions that they intended for Molly to be a pet, not food. The shock and outrage felt by many, especially by the employees of the SPCA branch in question, is in part due to this flagrant breach of trust. The couple pledged to take care of this animal. Instead, they did the exact opposite.
The reason the couple changed their minds about what to do with Molly was because they soon realized they did not know how to properly care for a pig. They ought to have done their research beforehand, as any would-be pet owner should, but this lapse on their part is not inexcusable. However, the fact that they chose to simply kill and eat their pet pig, instead of learning how to care for one (which is quick and easy to do thanks to the internet), or taking her back to the SPCA so that someone more able and willing could adopt her instead, makes their decision a very short-sighted and self-centred one.
Adding insult to injury, the couple snapchatted photos and videos of themselves seasoning and cooking Molly’s meat. This spectacularly tone-deaf display is what caused this story to gain such widespread coverage and outrage.
Furthermore, one cannot even make the argument that they used the pig for its proper purpose. Molly was not a livestock pig arbitrarily assigned to be a pet. Vietnamese pot belly pigs are bred and raised specifically as pets, and due to their diet, their meat is not suitable for human consumption. Even if it was, if Molly had received all of her shots (it is not certain that she did), her flesh could have been hazardous to eat.
The couple has faced no criminal charges, because in Canada, it is not illegal to kill an animal you own for any reason, provided that it is done quickly and humanely. Since there is no evidence that Molly suffered, the couple will face no legal repercussions. However, their actions did not come without consequences. The man who adopted Molly has been banned by the SPCA from adopting any more animals from them in perpetuity, a punishment that I feel is entirely appropriate. These people displayed a disturbing lack of regard for a life, and for the feelings of others. Individuals who act so callously and irresponsibly have no business owning or taking care of any kind of animal.
Ultimately, this goes beyond the particulars of Molly’s case, and opens up debates about law and ethics. Is killing an animal you own on a whim really any better than letting it suffer? If not, should the law be changed, and if so, how so? Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right (and vice-versa). The public outrage at Molly’s death could be seen as a means of expressing disapproval of antisocial attitudes that could lead to suffering if they are allowed to continue. Personally, I think that publicly calling people out on reckless and inconsiderate behaviour is something we really ought to be doing more often these days.